Pro Triathlete Courtney Atkinson - A Very Versatile Swimmer

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A few weeks ago our Head Coach Paul Newsome was over in Sydney for the Australian Triathlon, Endurance & Cycling Expo. We're pleased to bring you a short clip from the show of Paul putting pro-triathlete Courtney Atkinson through his paces in the endless pool.

It's a fascinating session to watch because Courtney (a two time Olympian) shows us how he adapts his stroke for different conditions, using a longer smoother stroke in flat conditions but becoming slightly choppier using a much higher and straighter arm recovery in rougher conditions or close pack racing:

At Swim Smooth we call these two styles 'Smooth' and 'Swinger' and whilst the elite swimmers and triathletes of the world may not necessarily use that terminology, they very much recognise the two styles and understand instinctively when to use each.

Many elite swimmers and triathletes are able to chop and change their stroke at will like this and whilst it's a difficult skill to switch between two distinct styles, it pays dividends as they can maximise their performances in whatever conditions a race throws at them.

Some elite swimmers can even swap from a six-beat flutter kick when swimming long and smooth to a two-beat kick when upping their stroke rate in rougher conditions - now that is hard to master!

What can we take from this? Firstly, there's no one best way for everyone to swim. And secondly, we must take account of the environment in which we are swimming when developing our strokes. If you are a triathlete or swimmer racing in open water, above all else you need rhythm and purpose in your stroke if you are to be fast and efficient.

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Jonas said...

Interesting how he changed from the smooth style with 5-bilateral breathing (pool) to the swinger style with 2-unilateral breathing (open water). I wonder why he changed from bilateral to unilateral: is it better to breathe unilaterally in open water with waves? (also interesting to see that in the swinger style his right and left arm recovery is not symmetrical - probably because of breathing unilaterally)

Pete Winners said...

I observed the same as Jonas and also the change in the kick which seemed to become more forceful when synchronized with the arm recovery when Courtney was swimming his 'surf' style. The kicking style appeared to be a flutter with a forced - probably 6-beat which made the statement made below contradictory.

"Some elite swimmers can even swap from a six-beat flutter kick when swimming long and smooth to a two-beat kick when upping their stroke rate in rougher conditions - now that is hard to master!"

The long and smooth as I know it has a typical 2-beat kick and my experience with changing stroke rate with different conditions is that the stroke rate and number of kicks increase or decrease simultaneously. Keeping the head low in chop certainly helps.

Educational as ever - thanks.

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